Last week I checked out Mountains Beyond Mountains from the library. The book is the story of Paul Farmer, an American doctor who spent most of his career running a medical clinic in Haiti. I was only two chapters into the book when I flipped to the last page to read the short bio about the author.

When I did so, I was surprised to find not one, but two authors listed. I knew about Tracy Kidder, but was unfamiliar with the second author, a man named Michael French. Quickly I realized I’d checked out the wrong book. More accurately, I’d grabbed the right book, but the wrong edition. I wanted to read the unabridged version from 2003, but instead had brought home a newer edition containing modified text for young readers. Tracy Kidder had written the original book, and Michael French had done the adaptation. 

The revision wasn’t bad, so I had to decide whether to keep reading or to track down another copy. With the young reader edition in hand, I went online to see whether Amazon had a “Look Inside” feature for the adult book. It did. The opening line of the youth version reads, “I first met Paul Edward Farmer two weeks before Christmas 1994.” The opening line of the adult book reads, “Six years after the fact, Dr. Paul Edward Farmer reminded me, ‘We met because of a beheading…’”

Obviously the two books were not the same. While I did not need to know the details of a violent murder, I also was not interested in a version that redacts such content. I exchanged copies at the library and now look forward to reading about Dr. Farmer with all of the gore and all of the big words still in place. 

More interesting (at least more interesting to me) than my confusion with the two versions of Mountains Beyond Mountains is the reason I want to read the book at all. That, however, is an anecdote for an upcoming blog. 

Steven Simpson